Mrs May welcomed her minister’s to her country residence, Chequers, which is located in Buckinghamshire, just 40 miles west of Central London. However, it seems the tensions in Westminster are likely to follow the Prime Minister in what is set to be a tense debate.
Ministers, who have handed in their phones, will trawl through a hundred-page document which will set the path for the future relationship between the EU and the UK.
It has been reported that civil servants will be on hand to redraft the document in real time, but the ministers’ political aides will not be able to communicate with their bosses. There’ll be no back channelling via WhatsApp, or Twitter public diplomacy.
Nevertheless, EU eyes will be fixed on the 16th century mansion.
Theresa May is expected to promote what is called a “facilitated customs arrangement” which would allow the UK the freedom to set its own tariffs on goods arriving into the country. Technology would subsequently be used to determine where the goods will end up and whether UK or EU tariffs should be apply.
Downing Street says it is confident the arrangement would be partly in place by the end of the proposed transition period in December 2020; with the system being fully operational by the next British General Election, which is due in 2022.
On regulations, it is understood that the UK would closely mirror the EU’s rules on some goods but not services but Parliament would be able to decide where to deviate.
Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington said there could be a common rulebook on industrial products, as components have to cross borders repeatedly, and agricultural goods which would be held up by veterinary checks.
However, the arrangement has not been explained in full and it’s not currently clear whether the Cabinet or even the EU will agree to the proposals.
Last night several Brexiteer Cabinet Ministers, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met to discuss the proposal. It’s understood that the Brexiteers are not in favour of the agreement because it would leave the UK as a rule-taker, tied to the constraints of the EU but lacking the ability to dictate regulations.
It’s also understood that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this week to express his concern that Mrs May was only setting the UK up for failure in negotiations because the EU have rejected her preferred option once before.
Instead it’s understood the potential rebels favour a Canada-style agreement between the UK and the bloc. An agreement modelled on the deal between Canada and the EU would mean the removal of the majority of customs duties between the UK and Europe. There would be hundreds of exceptions, however, and there would be limits on access for British companies trading in the bloc.
Most importantly however, this type of deal would not oblige Britain to sign up to any EU rules or regulations or abide by rulings of the European Court of Justice.
The EU is likely to be watching the developments with a sense of anxiety. Britain leaving the EU was marked as a serious blow to the EU and the future relationship it has will have serious implications on the EU economy, defence and security strategy and movement of its citizens.